A homeless man was ticketed last week while searching for food in a Houston trash bin, and the news didn't go over well. Now the HPD is on the defensive and explaining that James Kelly was ticketed for making a mess, not for attempting to feed himself. And a police rep says most of his colleagues wouldn't ticket anyone for seeking food in a dumpster, clarifying that the type of ticket Kelly was given is written only after a complaint is made about garbage being taken from the can and left around it.
"It's not officers being inhumane," the rep said. "It's police officers responding to citizens' complaints." Laws against picking through trash have been on the books since the 1940s, the Houston Chronicle reports. Kelly's lawyer yesterday acknowledged that Kelly was ticketed under the scavenging ordinance, and not under tough new laws related to feeding the homeless in the city, as he had originally claimed. "However, it's the same reasoning," he says, "to push the homeless people out of the downtown business district." He adds that the anti-scavenging ordinance is unconstitutional based on a 1988 Supreme Court case.